Tuesday 5 February 2013

National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace

February 5, 2013

The Canadian Standards Association (“CSA”) is a non-profit organization that works in Canada and around the world to develop standards that address real needs, including but not limited to enhancing public safety and health.
Recently, the CSA, the Bureau de normalisation du Québec and the Mental Health Commission of Canada (“MHCC”) released a national standard on psychological health and safety in the workplace (“Standard”).  The Standard is designed to assist organizations and their employees improve psychological health and safety.   

There have been considerable efforts in recent years to bring awareness to mental health issues in the workplace:  Most notably, anti-bullying legislation found in Ontario’s Occupational Health Safety Act pursuant to Bill 168 and similar legislative amendments in British Columbia and Manitoba and, of course, human rights legislation.  Despite these efforts, an employer’s legal obligations with respect to psychological health and safety are still only partially addressed.  The new Standard provides a framework and step-by-step implementation to ensure psychologically healthy work environments. 
According to MHCC President and CEO Louise Bradley,

"One in five Canadians experience a mental health problem or mental illness in any given year and many of the most at risk individuals are in their early working years. Canadians spend more waking hours at work than anywhere else.  It's time to start thinking about mental well-being in the same way as we consider physical well-being, and the Standard offers the framework needed to help make this happen in the workplace".
The Standard’s framework allows organizations to develop and sustain a psychologically healthy and safe work environment in the following manner:

  • The identification of psychological hazards in the workplace;
  • The assessment and control of the risks in the workplace associated with hazards that cannot be eliminated (e.g. stressors due to organizational change or reasonable job demands);
  • The implementation of practices that support and promote psychological health and safety in the workplace;
  • The growth of a culture that promotes psychological health and safety in the workplace;
  • The implementation of measurement and review systems to ensure sustainability.
Some of the key steps in implementing a psychologically safe and healthy workplace include, planning, implementation and evaluation and corrective action. 

Although there is no legal requirement to abide by this Standard, there are a number of reasons why employers should do so. First, volunteering compliance could avoid unwanted human rights complaints and occupational health and safety concerns.  Second, the Standard promotes a business’s bottom line: employees who are happy and healthy at work will perform better, remain an asset to an organization and minimize employee turnover.

For more information about the Standard contact the Carvery Law Firm.

By Sumitha Carvery BA(Honours) JD

Carvery Law Professional Corporation
829A Oxford Street | Toronto ON M8Z 0B3
(T) 416.259.3244
(M) 647.444.3244
(F) 416.255.7140

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